“Justice League” was first released in 2017. The two-hour, 13-year-old film grossed $657 million at the box office and received mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. the film had largely lagged behind on the pop culture scene.
It’s now 2021 and “Justice League,” the exact same movie, only this time from director Zack Snyder, is coming to HBO Max on March 18.
but it’s a bit different than what you might remember from the original. this new version has a duration of four hours and two minutes. (yes, it’s a four hour movie) and has been given an r rating due to an increase in violence and language.
This new “justice league” is also pretty grim.
is set after the events of “batman v superman: dawn of justice” in which (spoilers) superman dies. So now, Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman team up to take down the alien Steppenwolf and his troops. Cyborg, Aquaman, The Flash, Lois Lane, the villainous Lex Luthor, Hippolyta, and Martian Manhunter are among the gigantic roster of characters.
so how does a movie go from pg-13 and two hours to r and four hours? And what does that say about the direction of the superhero genre?
here’s a breakdown of how we came to this dark reinvention.
what does the ‘snyder cut’ mean?
Snyder completed most of Justice League in 2016. However, he left the project to deal with a family emergency at the time, which quickly put an end to his vision.
Joss Whedon, who directed the first two “Avengers” films, stepped in to finish the project. It was a natural fit since the “Avengers” movies, also about superheroes coming together, did so well at the box office.
But Whedon’s version, which the audience ultimately saw, didn’t include everything from Snyder’s original cut. the film released in theaters was reportedly 80–85% of the original.
in fact, snyder’s version of the film was rumored to be 3.5 hours long compared to the two hour cut for theaters. the released version reportedly also removed several storylines and changed the tone of the entire film. Whedon’s version was believed to be the “fun version” with a comedic tone, according to Den of Geek. but snyder called the original version “really scary”.
The film that hit theaters included “the different styles of both men” and “led many fans to believe that Snyder had envisioned a much darker version of the project,” according to Variety.
the #releasethesnydercut campaign
For years, fans have wondered about the snyder cut as they were ultimately disappointed with “justice league” posting a 40% score on critics’ rotten tomatoes.
Shortly after the release of the original, the hashtag #releasethesnydercut began to circulate through social media. not long after, the #releasethesnydercut campaign became a twitter staple. The movement turned into a massive grassroots campaign to get the original version of the film, complete with all of Snyder’s scenes and stories, released at some point.
still, despite the campaign, the “snyder cut” was a bit of a myth. but snyder later admitted that it was real. however, he did not have the power to free him. Warner Bros. he owned the rights.
“While plans to release Snyder Cut in theaters never took shape, his value to HBO Max is undeniable,” according to variety.
new life in hbo max
warner bros. announced in May 2020 that Zack Snyder’s version of “Justice League” would be coming to the HBO Max streaming service in 2021. The film would tell the story of Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg and Superman, but this time with snyder’s original vision.
The film’s release gave HBO Max a unique piece of content that can’t be found anywhere else. for streaming services, original projects are the name of the game. so it would make sense for hbo max to release something so massive and desired.
“Since I got here 14 months ago, the #releasethesnydercut chant has been a daily drumbeat in our offices and inboxes. Well, the fans have asked for it and we’re thrilled to finally deliver,” said Robert Greenblatt, president of Warner Media Entertainment and Direct-to-Consumer, according to Slash Film. “At the end of the day, it really is about them and we are beyond excited to be able to release Zack’s latest vision for this film in 2021. This could never have happened if it wasn’t for the combined hard work and efforts. from the teams of hbo max and warner bros. photos.”
snyder couldn’t have been happier at the time of the announcement. he praised the social media movement for helping the launch happen.
“I want to thank hbo max and warner bros. for this brave gesture of supporting artists and allowing their true visions to come true. Also a special thanks to everyone involved in the snydercut movement for making this a reality,” snyder reportedly said.
why is it four hours?
The original version of “Justice League” was two hours long, which is a typical length (if not shorter) for a modern superhero movie.
but the four hour version represents a complete raw cut of snyder’s film. Because it’s on HBO Max, free from the restrictions associated with theatrical releases, the project can run even longer than a regular movie.
but collider’s matt goldberg argued that four hours is too long. in fact, the runtime reveals why it needs to be edited because it has too much content for a movie.
“The problem with a movie that feels like a rough cut is that it constantly calls for editing. It’s not that a four-hour superhero movie can’t or shouldn’t exist as long as (Snyder’s “Justice League”) never explains why it needs to be four hours,” he writes.
goldberg continues: “sometimes you have to kill the ones you love, and the problem with [snyder’s ‘justice league’] is that it seems built to contain everything. this approach not only kills the pacing, it kills It also makes it hard to hold on to any kind of thematic or emotional arc, especially since the movie tries to cater to six different superheroes, three of whom (aquaman, flash, and cyborg) are basically being introduced in this movie.”
why is it rated r?
The original version of “Justice League” received a pg-13 rating from the American Motion Picture Association for Science Fiction Action and Violence, which is not uncommon for a superhero film.
“There are plenty of opportunities for snyder to inject more violence and language, considering snyder’s cut includes 150 minutes of never-before-seen footage,” according to ign.
Short previews of the new film also show a darker film. vanity fair recently detailed what to expect from the prankster character, who will be part of the new “justice league” movie.
the joker was not part of the original version of whedon. But when Snyder got a chance to finish his version of the movie, he decided to add Joker to the project, according to Vanity Fair.
“The joker is really the only thing I thought of in hindsight,” Snyder told Vanity Fair. “But I will say that it was always my intention to bring joker into that world.”
The joker figure appears in a hospital gown and surgical mask. he is also seen wearing a bulletproof vest. there are separate photos of him wearing a crown of thorns.
“Gone are the face tattoos and slicked-back emerald cropped hairstyle of (“suicide squad”), replaced with a face that looks like a creature that came out of the basement of a long-abandoned insane asylum. maybe she did,” according to vanity fair.
It is clear, then, that “justice league” will have a darker tone. it remains to be seen how dark it will be.
what does this say about hollywood?
The debut of the new “Justice League” means a few different things for the state of Hollywood superhero movies. For starters, the four-hour length may indicate that streaming services allow directors more creative freedom. director’s cuts could be released en masse.
R-rated superhero movies have come out a lot more in recent years. “Logan” was an R-rated retelling of the Wolverine story, and “Deadpool” has popularized the R-rated superhero gimmick with foul language. That’s not to mention movies like “joker” or “birds of prey,” which were also rated r and tried to tell serious stories about violence, mental health, and more.
Clearly, superhero movies are heading into R-rated territory. In fact, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige said at a “wandavision” press event that Ryan Reynolds is working on a script for a new “Deadpool” movie, Collider reports.
“it will be classified as r and we’re working on a script right now, and ryan (reynolds is) supervising a script right now. …it won’t be (filming) this year. Ryan is a very busy and very successful actor. we have a number of things that we’ve already announced that we now need to do, but it’s exciting that it’s started. again, a very different kind of character in the mcu, and ryan is a force of nature, which is amazing to see him bring that character to life.”
so it’s clear the r-rated superhero movie isn’t going away anytime soon.
how to see… if you want
“zack snyder’s justice league” will debut on hbo max on march 18, so you’ll need an account to watch it. the streaming service costs $15 per month, according to cnet.
See also: How Many Scenes Are in a Movie?